Bensonhurst Landlords Indicted In Tenants’ Deaths In Deathtrap Building

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Two Brooklyn landlords were indicted yesterday in the deaths of five tenants after a fire broke out at an apartment building they owned. The fire was set off by an arsonist and swept through the building in January of 2010.

The landlords, Vasilios Gerazounis and his son Argyrios, illegally subdivided the building at 2033 86th Street, converting the second floor to two apartments, and the third floor to four, according to the New York Daily News. The conversion blocked off several life-saving fire exits.

Later, other illegal conversions were also discovered in a nearby property owned by the defendants.

“Although the arsonist is responsible for setting the fire, he does not shoulder the blame alone,” Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes said in a statement. “The landlords share in the responsibility for each of the five deaths and the injuries. They owned, maintained, and made money from a building with illegal subdivisions that blocked tenants’ ability to escape in a deadly fire.”

The father and son were indicted on charges of manslaughter, reckless endangerment and one count of assault. They plead not guilty. If convicted, they’ll serve up to 25 years in prison.